Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Tree Grows in Israel: 240 million of them

JNF: 240 Million Trees Planted Since 1901

Israel is the only country in the world which has more trees now than it did 100 years ago.

In 1901, the year in which the Jewish National Fund (JNF) was founded, Israel contained only 14,000 dunam (roughly 3,500 acres) of forest land. By 1980 the figure reached 556,000 dunam and currently Israel has 855,663 dunam of forests.

JNF has planted over 240 million trees in its years of existence.
(Ynet News)

Arab laments oil's slippery slope

Qatari Columnist: Arab State of Backwardness

Iyad Al-Dulaimi, a columnist for the Qatari daily Al-'Arab, took stock on the eve of the new year (Dec. 31, 2009):

"A quick glance at what is happening around us is enough to tell us that we Arabs are a nation that has lost its grip, and that we no longer have anything of value except our oil, which we sell to others in return for their dollars and their products."

"I do not know what we will do with our oil tomorrow if these nations achieve their goal of developing alternative energy [sources]. Every day I writhe in pain to see the gap between ourselves and the West and the civilized world growing wider and wider, and to see us apparently accepting this situation."

Media assists jihad in "cognitive warfare"

Cognitive Warfare -Richard Landes

Hamas and Hizbullah [have] pursued a strategy literally unknown in the history of warfare of maximizing their own civilians' deaths in order to turn people the world over against their designated enemies.

For Hamas, the media battlefield was their main concern. Indeed, they barely fought in the field. By echoing their accusations, journalists and organizations like Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, and the UN Human Rights Commission make this strategy a success; they make it "rational."

It is hard to imagine a more spectacular victory of the ruthless "weak" forces of an asymmetrical war, one that specifically encourages sacrifice of their own populations.

As long as the militarily weaker side can attack enemy civilians with impunity from the midst of their own civilians and have every attempt to strike back turned against the society that tries to protect itself from their aggression, they advance their cause.
(GLORIA Center, IDC Herzliya)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Arafat's long shadow

Palestinian Corruption Enables Hamas Takeover -Khaled Abu Toameh

PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has surrounded himself with many of the corrupt officials who used to work for Yasser Arafat [pictured above], and that's why Hamas will one day take control of the West Bank, Fahmi Shabaneh, appointed by Abbas four years ago to root out corruption, said.

"Unfortunately, Abbas has surrounded himself with many of the thieves and officials who were involved in theft of public funds and who became icons of financial corruption."

Shabaneh, who until recently was in charge of the Anti-Corruption Department in the PA's General Intelligence Service, said, "Had it not been for the presence of the Israeli authorities in the West Bank, Hamas would have done what they did in Gaza."

Shabaneh asserted that Fatah personnel stole much of a $3.2 million donation given by the U.S. to Fatah... "I no longer believe that Abbas' authority can be reformed."
(Jerusalem Post)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Terror humor from Israel

Israeli video pokes fun at American airport security
[Latma TV]

Christians persecution in Muslim lands

A short video clip on Christian persecution
[The Third Jihad]

New York's Mayor Bloomberg turns on Obama

Bloomberg Balks at Trial, Blow to White House -Michael Barbaro & Al Baker

The Obama administration lost its most prominent backer of the plan to try the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks in Lower Manhattan when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the trial should not be held in New York City.

Mr. Bloomberg said that a more secure location, like a military base, would be less disruptive and less costly. His remarks echoed growing opposition from Wall Street executives, the real estate industry and neighborhood groups, who have questioned the burdens that such a trial would bring to a heavily trafficked area of the city.

[H]is forceful objections came at a difficult time for the administration, which announced in November that it would prosecute Mr. Mohammed and other Qaeda operatives in federal criminal court rather than before a military tribunal.

On Tuesday, six senators wrote to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and urged him to abandon the idea. The letter read, in part, “You will be providing them one of the most visible platforms in the world to exalt their past acts and to rally others in support of further terrorism.”
[New York Times]

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Yale Fails Middle East Studies

A Different Forum Needed for Goldstone -Adam Yoffie & Noah Pollak

Richard Goldstone will give the George Herbert Walker, Jr. Lecture in International Studies at Yale University.

Justice Goldstone accepted a mandate from the UN Human Rights Council, a body used by some of the world's worst human rights abusers to deflect attention from their own authoritarianism and brutality, to investigate Israel, and only Israel, over its attack last year on the internationally-recognized terrorist group Hamas.

The report he produced is a perversion of human rights and international law. It treats Hamas' allegations with meticulous credulity, but Israeli claims with flippant skepticism. It is riddled with factual errors and twisted accounts of the war.

Goldstone himself has admitted that nothing in the report would be admissible as credible evidence in a court of law.

It is astonishing that Yale would attempt to legitimize Goldstone by awarding him the Walker Lecture - and thereby take sides in a bitter controversy. We believe that Justice Goldstone should come to Yale. But if he is to make an officially sanctioned appearance on campus, it should be in a debate in which his alleged judicial impartiality can be challenged - not a coronation that seeks to sanitize his work and shield him from much-deserved criticism.
(Yale Daily News)

Obama's light bulb moment

The Middle East Has Always Been Hard -Michael J. Totten

President Obama admitted in an interview with TIME that he was "too optimistic" about his ability to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that it's "just really hard."

Most Westerners who get involved in the Middle East come away disappointed and disillusioned after a while. One common problem is a kind of projection, a belief that the region is more like our part of the world than it actually is.

[N]obody can fix this right now. The Middle East doesn't need a diplomatic process; it needs a revolutionary transformation of its political culture. This is not going to happen because Obama tweaks our foreign policy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dershowitz: Gaza suffering "a self-inflicted wound"

For Some, Israel Can Do No Right -Alan Dershowitz

[Israeli's c]ritics complain that Israel should not be sending medical assistance to such a faraway place as Haiti. Instead it should be sending it to nearby Gaza. They fail to note the difference between Haiti and Gaza.

Haiti is not at war with Israel. Haiti has not pledged itself to Israel's destruction. Haiti has not fired 8,000 rockets at Israeli civilians. Gaza, on the other hand, has a popularly elected government that has done and continues to do all of the above.

Moreover, there is no comparison between the tens of thousands of Haitians who have died from a natural disaster, and the people of Gaza who suffer far less from what is, essentially, a self-inflicted wound.

Israel will be extremely generous to the people of Gaza if and when they stop supporting attacks on Israeli civilians, stop making martyrs of their suicide murderers, and stop encouraging their children to don suicide vests. The peace dividend the Palestinian people will reap from making peace with Israel is incalculable.
(Huffington Post)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lady bombers targeting US flights?

Female Suicide Bombers May Be Heading to U.S.
-Richard Esposito, Rhonda Schwartz & Brian Ross

American law enforcement officials have been told to be on the lookout for female suicide bombers who may attempt to enter the U.S.

One official said at least two of them are believed to be connected to al-Qaeda in Yemen, and may have a non-Arab appearance and be traveling on Western passports.

The man accused of attempting to explode a bomb on Northwest flight 253, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, told FBI agents there were a number of other people who trained with him in Yemen.

The alert comes during a week in which American law enforcement officials described an "unusually high" number of people on the no-fly list attempting to board flights to or in the United States. At least six people on the no-fly list were denied boarding in a 48-hour period, according to the officials.

On Saturday, an Egyptian man on the no-fly list was stopped from flying on American Airlines flight 113 from London to Miami. The next day, a Saudi Arabian passenger was stopped from boarding United Airlines flight 929 to Chicago.

U.S. law enforcement agencies have quietly begun an intense and widespread effort to investigate any American resident who traveled to Yemen in recent months or who was in contact with the radical cleric Anwar Awlaki, who serves as an al Qaeda recruiter.
(ABC News)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jewish teen's prayer triggers bomb scare on plane

Tefillin [pictured above] while powerful, have no destructive powers.
A plane crew mistakened them for a bomb.

Tefillin causes bomb scare on US flight

A teenage airplane passenger using a Jewish prayer instrument caused a misunderstanding that led the captain to divert the Kentucky-bound plane to Philadelphia and prompted a visit from a bomb squad.

A 17-year-old boy on US Airways Express Flight 3079 traveling from New York to Louisville was using tefillin, a set of black boxes attached to leather straps and containing biblical passages. When used in prayer, one box is strapped to the arm while the other box is placed on the head.

"It's something that the average person is not going to see very often, if ever," FBI spokesman J.J. Klaver said.

The teen explained the ritual after being questioned by crew members, but the captain decided to land in Philadelphia anyway, authorities said.

The teen was traveling with his 16-year-old sister. Klaver said the teen and his sister were never in custody, and have been cleared to continue their travels.

Passengers on 50-seat jet were rebooked on other flights.
[Jerusalem Post]

A Flight Is Diverted by a Prayer -James Barron

A 17-year-old passenger in a whitish sweater took out something he had carried onboard, and strapped it onto his wrist and his head.

To some people in New York, that is a relatively common sight: an observant Jew beginning the ritual of morning prayer. But to at least one person on US Airways Express Flight 3079 on Thursday — the flight attendant — it looked ominous, as if the young man were wrapping himself in cables or wires.

The flight attendant asked what he was doing. The young man’s response was straightforward, Lieutenant Vanore said: “He gave the explanation he was in prayer.”

But the flight attendant was concerned about the tefillin. She called the cockpit and “described it as best as she’d seen it,” Lieutenant Vanore said, “and there was an item wrapped around his head, straps or wires.” “The straps did appear to be cables or wires to her,” he said. “To the naked eye looking at it, it looked like that. She said it had wires running from it and going up to his fingers."

In less than 30 minutes it was on the ground, police officers were swarming through the passenger cabin, and the Transportation Security Administration was using terms like “disruptive passenger” and “suspicious passenger” to describe the boy.

The boy’s grandmother, Frances Winchell, said her grandson and granddaughter were handcuffed for a few minutes.
[New York Times]

Amnesty International renamed: "Amnesia International"

Amnesia International -Justus Reid Weiner & Dimitri Teresh

Amnesty International's new briefing paper titled "Suffocating: The Gaza Strip Under Israeli Blockade" forgets the actual cause for the clearly less-than-optimal circumstances in which Gazans live - the thousands of Hamas rocket, missile and mortar attacks that predated and prompted any economic sanctions put into effect by Israel.

Gaza's offshore gas deposits (confirmed by British Gas) are worth an estimated $2 billion. If the Hamas government can stabilize the political situation long enough to install platforms to bring the gas to the surface, Gazans can reap the benefits.

Amnesty might be better advised to redirect its efforts to entities that are genuinely in need of humanitarian assistance and that are not terrorizing their neighbors. Gazans receive the greatest amount of international aid per capita of any entity in the world.

The $900 million pledged to rebuild Gaza by Secretary of State Clinton would go a long way towards alleviating the suffering of the millions who live in desperate circumstances in Haiti. And the Haitians are not likely to divert the foreign aid to launch missiles, rockets, and mortars toward their neighbors.
(Global Law Forum)

Islam behind bars

Ex-Convicts from U.S. Said to Join Yemen Radicals -Scott Shane

A new report from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says that as many as 36 American Muslims who converted to Islam in prison have moved to Yemen and may have joined extremist groups there.

The report warns that Americans recruited in Yemen or Somalia may pose a particular threat, since they can operate freely inside the U.S.

Three American Muslims were convicted for a 2005 plot to attack Jewish institutions and military bases around Los Angeles that was said to have been concocted inside New Folsom Prison, near Sacramento. Michael Finton, who converted to Islam while imprisoned, was charged last year with trying to blow up the federal courthouse in Springfield, Ill. Four former New York state prisoners, at least two of whom converted to Islam in prison, were accused last year of plotting to attack synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes.
(New York Times)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Courting failure

The Process Will Resume, But Why? -Yossi Alpher

Israeli-Palestinian final status talks will be renewed because the international community wants this to happen.

Mahmoud Abbas, currently the reluctant partner, will bow to American and Arab will once he has extracted maximum preliminary concessions from Israel and the U.S.

The real question should be why the U.S. wants negotiations to resume when they are doomed to failure.


All Process, No Peace -Elliott Abrams

For two decades the "peace process" has failed to end the conflict. Yet there is a way forward, the one sensible option never really tried: to start at the beginning rather than the end, by creating a Palestinian state from the bottom up, institution by institution, and ending with Israeli withdrawal and negotiation of a state only when Palestinian political life is truly able to sustain self-government, maintain law and order, and prevent terrorism against Israel.

This is, in fact, the fastest way forward.
(Weekly Standard)


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Israel plays major role in Haiti

Short video of Israel's Field Hospital in Haiti
[Hat Tip: Maggie]

Israeli Hospital Only Facility for Complex Surgery -Yitzhak Benhorin

U.S. media praised the assistance in Haiti provided by Israel, and one reporter even sent a letter of thanks to Israeli representatives in New York.

CNN reported that Israel's field hospital is the one facility equipped with all that is required for surgical operations. Doctors from various aid missions are sending patients requiring surgery to Israel's hospital, particularly those whose condition is critical.

Other field hospitals contain no more than stretcher beds and medical teams who administer first aid, and they are not prepared for complex surgery. ABC reported that the U.S. had sent staff for a field hospital, but they had still not received the instruments required for surgery.
(Ynet News)

Aid to Haiti: Arabs Opt Out -Tom Gross

A CBS/AP report lists countries providing aid to Haiti. Conspicuous by its absence is the entire Muslim world, including the rich oil-producing nations.

However, Arab countries do not discriminate against non-Muslim countries. Their help was missing after the earthquakes in Turkey and Iran and during war and famine in Muslim Africa too.
(Mideast Dispatch Archive)


Israel to the Rescue -David Horovitz

While other countries dithered, countries both nearer and far better resourced, Israel utilized [its] experience and got down to business in Haiti.

Our "light unto the nations" Haitian relief effort encapsulated much of what is best about our country.

While relief teams from more than two dozen countries were running into all kinds of logistical difficulties, the Israeli teams, quietly, efficiently, and with a minimum of fuss, somehow circumvented or cleared all the obstacles, and went to work.

There is one thing that our Haiti rescue outreach made emphatically clear, and that the Palestinians might want to ponder: If you're in trouble and you're not trying to kill us, there's no one like the Israelis to help you out.
(Jerusalem Post)


Monday, January 18, 2010

Grateful Haitian mom names her baby "Israel"

Haitian mother who named her son "Israel" after Israeli medics delivered a baby boy
Photo courtesy IDF

Haitian mother names baby Israel

A Haitian woman whose baby was the first to be born in an Israeli field hospital set up in the capital has decided to name her son after her rescuers.

Baby Israel was in good health, a military spokesman confirmed. The woman, in her mid-20s gave birth naturally. The woman's husband is said to be missing and her three other children being cared for by her parents.

The hospital, with a capacity to treat up to 500 patients a day, was set up on a football field in Port-au-Prince within eight hours. It consists of a radiology department, an intensive care unit, an emergency room, two operating rooms and a pharmacy.
[Deutsche Presse-Agentur]

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Do Iran's Jews support the Iranian Opposition?

Survival instincts -Larry Derfner

[T]he question of where Iran's Jewish community stands on the struggle between the regime and the reformers is unclear, because the country's Jews generally keep their political opinions to themselves.

[W]hen émigrés contact their families back in Iran, politics remains an off-limits subject because of their fear that the regime is monitoring their communications. The natural assumption is that privately, at least, Iran's Jews oppose the government and support the protesters because the country's Islamic revolution compels them to declare their enmity to Israel...

The fear of being accused of spying for Israel hangs over the Jews of Iran and keeps them in line. A dozen Jews were executed on this charge after the 1979 Islamic revolution. In 2000, 10 Jews in the city of Shiraz were convicted of spying for Israel and imprisoned for four years.

A prominent member of the Iranian immigrant community says: "Iranian Jews are free [to] go and pray in their synagogues without anyone bothering them. They have great parties, weddings, bar mitzvas - they can have music at their affairs, which isn't allowed to the Muslims."

To protect their status, they pledge allegiance to the government and publicly support its policies. This has been the community's survival strategy for 2,700 years, says Orly Rahimiyan, a lecturer on Persian Jewry at Ben-Gurion University.

The Jerusalem shopkeeper who left Iran after the revolution says: "Jews in Iran always go with the wind, with whoever's in power, even if they hate him."

Whether the reformers or the regime emerge on top, whether the mullahcracy is preserved, moderated or thrown out, Iran's ancient, survivalist Jewish community will be cheering. In public, anyway.
[Jerusalem Post]

Friday, January 15, 2010

VideoBite: Turkish TV spreads hatred

Turkish TV's depiction of Israelis as child murderers
[Content warning]

Turkish TV Series May Lead to New Crises with Israel

Bahadir Ozdener, a scriptwriter for Turkish television, has started work on a new spinoff, "Valley of the Wolves: Palestine," which might lead to more crises between Turkey and Israel.

Ozdener also said that they had featured a Jewish doctor who was involved in an organ mafia.

Israel has complained that Turkey should be more careful about how it depicts Israel in the television series.
(Today's Zaman-Turkey)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The littlest Jihadis

Jihadists Groom Children under 10 in UK -Marie Woolf

Up to 10 primary school pupils, aged between seven and 10, have been placed on a British government outreach program for individuals considered at risk of being radicalized and turning to violence.

One child was referred to the program by his teacher after writing on a school book: "I want to be a suicide bomber."

At least 228 people, mostly teenagers and young men aged 15-24, have been referred to the anti-terrorism Channel project after being singled out as "potentially vulnerable to violent extremism."

Monday, January 11, 2010

With new Israeli discovery, Bible comes to life

Why we are here

Cast your mind back to before Muhammad destroyed the Jewish tribes of Arabia; before Islam expanded beyond the Arabian Peninsula reaching Jerusalem in 638. Before the ancient Roman Empire and the emergence of Christianity; before the Greek empire; even before the Persians came onto the stage of history. Consider the distant 10th century before the Common Era when the ancient Israelites were consolidating their kingdom under Saul and David.

Over the weekend came a report that an ancient inscription had been deciphered testifying - yet again - to the age-old connection between the people and land of Israel.

On what in ancient times was a main road from the coastal plain to the hill country, Hebrew University of Jerusalem archeologist Yosef Garfinkel, digging in the northern Judean hills, found a piece of pottery with ink writing which dates back to the Davidic era. The inscriptions, he said, are undoubtedly ancient Hebrew...

[T]his much appears clear:

• There was an expansive Kingdom of David which extended well beyond the hill country.
• The Hebrew language was sufficiently developed in the 10th century. It reinforces what many scholars have long appreciated - that parts of the Bible are very, very old.
• During the reign of King David there were scribes who were able to compose complex literary texts such as the books of Judges and Samuel.
• The find establishes that scholarship was taking place away from kingdom's hub, implying that even greater learning was going on at its heart.

It is living - Carbon-14 dated - proof that in the 10th century Samuel could have written what traditionalists have ascribed to him all along.

It may seem obvious that the Jewish connection to this land dates back thousands of years. Yet an elaborate industry of denial has sprung up.

Many reputable scholars never set out to deny the ancient connection between Jews and Israel, but simply emphasized the lack of contemporary confirmation that Bible figures such as David were anything like their scriptural portraits.

Unfortunately, their work was quickly manipulated and exploited by anti-Zionists. All the while, the Palestinian Arab leadership has remained adamant that evidence of an ancient Jewish presence in this land is a figment of the Zionist imagination. It's unlikely that anything will sway Palestinians out of their obdurate denial.

Still, the work of a generation of bible scholars and archeologists - along with their vibrant debates - continues to uplift the Israeli spirit.

It is gratifying to observe - from Eila Valley pottery writings and Dead Sea scrolls to Beit Guvrin tablets - ancient Jewish history falling ever more vividly into place, reminding us why we are here.
[Jerusalem Post]

Sunday, January 10, 2010

VideoBite: How Israel conducts airport security

A short, excellent Wall Street Journal video detailing the practices of Israeli airport security

Aviation Security System More Like Israel's? -Kip Hawley

[T]he key ingredient of Israeli security is not that their technology or staffers are better. It's not profiling or having just one international airport. It is willpower.

Israelis as a nation have coalesced around the fact that they are in a deadly conflict that extends to their everyday activities, such as traveling.

[U]nflinching determination and take-the-offensive mentalities are hallmarks of Israel's reaction.
The writer was head of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration from 2005 to 2009.
(Washington Post)

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Chickpea War

Israel Bests Lebanon In War Fought With Chickpeas

Israel has taken the upper hand in a new kind of Mideast conflict, one in which bullets are replaced by chickpeas.

Using a satellite dish [pictured above] on loan from a nearby broadcast station, cooks in an Arab town near Jerusalem whipped up more than four metric tons of hummus, the chickpea paste that is a staple - and a near-religious obsession - for many in the Middle East.

The cooks doubled the previous record for the world's biggest serving of hummus, set in October by cooks in Lebanon. That record broke an earlier Israeli record and briefly put Lebanon ahead.

Hundreds of jubilant Israelis, a mix of Arabs and Jews, gathered around the giant dish in the town of Abu Ghosh near Jerusalem, many of them dancing.

[A] newscaster on Israel's Army Radio referred to the hummus clash as the "third Lebanon war."
[Associated Press]
[Hat Tip: DavidG]


France cites women's equality in effort to ban burka

France Moves to Outlaw Burka Citing "Equality" -John Lichfield

Jean-Francois Cope, the parliamentary leader of the ruling French party, is to put forward a draft law to ban the full-body veil from French streets and all other public places.

Cope told Le Figaro that he would bring forward a law which would impose fines on anyone appearing in public "with their face entirely masked." Stiffer punishments would be laid down for men who "forced" their wives or daughters to wear full-body veils.


Burka-Wearing Gunmen Raid French Bank - Henry Samuel

Two burka-wearing bank robbers have pulled off a heist near Paris using a handgun concealed beneath their full Islamic veil. Employees let the pair through the security double doors of the banking branch, believing them to be Muslim women. France is looking into ways of restricting - or banning - the use of the head-to-toe Islamic veil.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Journalist pleads for profiling

Profile Me If You Must -Michael J. Totten [pictured]

I don't want to be profiled at the airport, but our airport security system is so half-baked and dysfunctional it may as well not even exist.

So rather than doubling down on grandma and micromanaging everyone on the plane, we might want to pay as much attention to people as to their luggage, especially military-aged males who make unusual and suspicious-looking travel arrangements.

That's what the Israelis do. At Ben-Gurion Airport you don't have to take off your shoes in the security line and you don't have to stand in front of invasive and expensive body-scanning machines.

Israeli security agents interview everyone, and they subject travelers who fit certain profiles to additional scrutiny. They take me aside every time, partly because of my gender and age but mostly because a huge percentage of my passport stamps are from countries with serious terrorist problems.

They've asked if I've ever met with anyone in Hizbullah. I am not going to lie, especially not when the answer can be easily found using Google. They know I've met with Hizbullah. That's why my luggage gets hand-searched one sock at a time while elderly tourists from Florida skate through. I don't take it personally, and it makes a lot more sense than letting me skate through while grandma's luggage is hand-searched instead.

[However, w]hen I get on a plane in the U.S., I often breeze past women decades older than me while they're being frisked. Almost every single person in line knows it's ridiculous.

We don't say anything because it feels vaguely "fair." Maybe it is, but it's no way to catch terrorists.

Egyptians threaten visitors to Cairo Israel Center

Egyptian Threatened over Interest in Israel -Daniel Edelson

The Israeli Center in Cairo has been in place for almost 30 years, but Egyptian visitors say they have been harassed by the country's authorities.

After his first visit to the center, Hussein Baker [pictured above], 20, a fourth-year Hebrew student at Menoufia University, was accosted by a member of the Egyptian security service who asked him why he had visited the center, who he met there, and what he thought about Israel.

A week later, Baker's girlfriend received a phone call from another security officer who asked about her boyfriend's political opinions.

Then he received a phone call from the Israeli Center about an upcoming screening of a film. Several minutes later he received a call from an Egyptian officer who warned him: "Don't visit the center again."

"I was so scared that I told him I would not visit the center anymore." This brought to an end "my dreams of normalization and peace."
(Ynet News)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Times calls failed Christmas attack a "Free Wake-Up Call"

Wake-Up Call from Al-Qaeda -Editorial

With its loosely affiliated franchises, its dedicated core of jihadists and its ruthless obsession with blowing planes out of the sky, al-Qaeda is a formidable adversary.

Worse, its adherents are prepared - indeed happy - to die for its cause. It seems entirely predictable that this war with al-Qaeda will lead to more attempted terrorist outrages. And inevitably they will get lucky.

The one bright spark is that al-Qaeda's technical shortcomings meant no one died. So we got this wake-up call for free and would be foolish not to heed it.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Goodbye Guantánamo, Hello Yemen!

Said Ali al-Shihri [second from left], a former Guantánamo prisoner, pictured with other leaders of Al-Qaeda in Yemen

Terror Attempt Hinders Plans to Close Guantánamo
-Peter Baker & Charlie Savage

The attempted bombing of an American passenger plane on Christmas Day could greatly complicate President Obama’s efforts to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as lawmakers in both parties call on the administration to rethink its approach.

The task of determining what to do with the detainees held at Guantánamo has already proved so daunting that Mr. Obama is poised to miss his self-imposed one-year deadline for shuttering the prison by Jan. 22. But evidence that Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen was behind last week’s failed plane attack will make closing the center even harder since nearly half the remaining detainees are from Yemen.

[A] senior official said that sending dozens of Yemenis back home would not be feasible.
[New York Times]

Former Guantanamo Prisoners Rejoin the Fight -Dan McDougall

Al-Qaeda is now back in Yemen in significant numbers and the organization is flourishing. Said Ali al-Shihri [pictured above], a Saudi national, spent six years as a prisoner at Guantanamo. After his release he crossed the border [from Saudi Arabia] into Yemen and began putting into place the building blocks for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which claimed responsibility for the botched suicide bomb attack on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day.

Last week Pentagon sources admitted that 61 former prisoners at the camp have returned to the battlefield.

Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington, believes Yemen has now become the third-largest haven for al-Qaeda.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Failing to connect the dots...again

Umaru Abdulmutallab, father of terrorist and former chairman of the First Bank of Nigeria

Shadow of 9/11 Is Cast Again -Scott Shane

[T]wo critical pieces of information appear never to have been connected
: National Security Agency intercepts of Qaeda operatives in Yemen talking about using a Nigerian man for an attack, and a warning from Mr. Abdulmutallab’s father [pictured] to American diplomats in Nigeria about the son’s radicalization in Yemen.

If the National Counterterrorism Center or any other agency had those two items and never linked them, Congress and the public will want to know why.

The echoes of Sept. 11 are obvious.

For Mr. Kean, of the Sept. 11 commission, it is the father’s role that should have moved even the most jaded bureaucracy.

Think of what it took for the father, one of the most respected bankers in Nigeria, to walk into the American Embassy and turn in his own son,” Mr. Kean said. “The father’s a hero. His visit by itself should have been enough to set off all kinds of alarms.”
[New York Times]

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Is Iran going to boil over?

At Least Ten Killed in Iran Protests -Robert F. Worth & Nazila Fathi

Police officers in Iran opened fire into crowds of protesters, killing at least 10 people, witnesses and opposition Web sites said.

One of the dead was Ali Moussavi, a 43-year-old nephew of the opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi, who appears to have been assassinated in a political gesture aimed at his uncle.

In some parts of Tehran, protesters pushed the police back, hurling rocks and capturing several police cars and motorcycles, which they set on fire. [P]rotesters attack[ed] Basij militia.

Several police officers walk[ed] away from the melee, as protesters pat[ted] them on the back in appreciation. The turmoil revealed an opposition movement that is becoming bolder and more direct in its challenge to Iran's governing authorities.
(New York Times)

Report: Iran Police Refuse to Shoot Protestors

An Iranian opposition website said police forces refused orders to shoot at pro-reform protesters during clashes in Tehran.

"Police forces are refusing their commanders' orders to shoot at demonstrators in central Tehran...some of them try to shoot into air when pressured by their commanders," the website said.

Iran Unrest Isn't a Riot, It's an Earthquake -Zvi Bar'el

The latest events are best described as further symptoms of an ongoing earthquake. Street protests have refused to abate for nearly half a year. The longer the demonstrations go on, the clearer it becomes that they're not aimed only at President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also at Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iranian Regime on the Defensive -Ulrike Putz

Eyewitnesses reported that many Iranians who could be recognized by their clothing as devout Muslims could be seen among the protesters in Tehran. Even conservative woman covered in the chador were chanting for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to stand down.

The pictures and amateur videos coming out of Iran via the Internet this time showed demonstrators chasing, seizing and beating up police. There were also pictures of uniformed men who had changed sides, being carried by demonstrators on their shoulders and waving the green ribbons that have come to symbolize the protest movement. As they marched through the streets of Tehran, thousands cried: "We will fight, we will die, we will reconquer our country."
(Der Spiegel-Germany)

Fierce Repression Suggests Regime Fears for its Future

The massive and violent demonstrations that engulfed Tehran and other cities on Dec. 26-27 suggested that repression only deepens and broadens the opposition.

The government's tactics, along with Khamenei's silence and the increasingly ungloved intervention of the Revolutionary Guards, the elite military corps that commands the plain-clothes basij militia used for crowd control, may reflect a growing sense of desperation.

Iranian Protest Is Grassroots and Unstoppable -Martin Fletcher

Iran's panicking regime is once again seeking to suppress the Green Movement by decapitating it. But decapitation will not work because the opposition is a bottom-up movement. It is a massive campaign of civil disobedience.

Protests are now common not just in Tehran, but in conservative cities such as Mashad and Qom.

In the Face of Protests, Iran's Leaders Are at an Impasse -Ray Takeyh

The mayhem that has swept over Iran in the past few days is once more calling into question the Islamic Republic's longevity. Recent events are eerily reminiscent of the revolution that displaced the monarchy in 1979.

The most remarkable aspect about the events in Iran has been the opposition's ability to sustain itself and to generate vast rallies while deprived of a national organizational network, a well-articulated ideology and charismatic leaders.

The Obama administration should challenge the legitimacy of the theocratic state and highlight its human rights abuses.
(Washington Post)

Why the Mullahs Are Vulnerable -Con Coughlin

Iran's mounting international isolation over its nuclear program was one of the issues that encouraged the anti-government protesters to take to the streets in the first place.
(Wall Street Journal)

Friday, January 01, 2010

US airport security should model Israel's

An Israeli security agent grills a passenger at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv

What Israel Can Teach Us about Airport Security -Cathal Kelly

While North America's airports groan under the weight of another sea-change in security protocols, the experts keep asking: How can we make our airports more like Israel's, which deals with far greater terror threats with far less inconvenience?

How do they manage that?

"[W]e went through this 50 years ago," said [Israeli] Rafi Sela, the president of AR Challenges, a global transportation security consultancy.

The first layer of security that greets travelers is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked: How are you? Where are you coming from? "Two benign questions. The questions aren't important. The way people act when they answer them is," Sela said.

Armed guards outside the terminal observe passengers as they move toward the doors, again looking for odd behavior. Inside the terminal, as you approach the airline check-in desk, a trained interviewer asks additional questions. "The whole time, they are looking into your eyes. [T]his is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not," said Sela.

At the check-in desk, your luggage is scanned immediately in a special area.

Five security layers down, you now arrive at the body and hand-luggage check. "But here it is done completely, absolutely 180 degrees differently than it is done in North America," Sela said.

"First, it's fast - there's almost no line. That's because they're not looking for liquids, they're not looking at your shoes....They just look at you...and that's how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys."

Sela maintains that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab would not have gotten past Ben-Gurion's behavioral profilers. "You can easily do what we do. You don't have to replace anything. You have to add just a little bit - technology, training...but you have to completely change the way you go about doing airport security."
(Toronto Star)


The System -Daniel Pipes

[B]ecause U.S. security agencies refuse to take the sensible precaution of concentrating their resources on the small target pool of suspects, namely
Muslims, about 1 percent of the population, hundreds of millions of passengers must bear the burden of extra cost, inconvenience, and loss of privacy.

What size disaster must occur to inspire a serious approach to counterterrorism?

US airport security remains obstinately reactive -- focused on intercepting dangerous things, instead of intercepting dangerous people.

Unwilling to incorporate ethnic and religious profiling in our air-travel security procedures, we have saddled ourselves with a mediocre security system that inconveniences everyone while protecting no one.
[Boston Globe]

The American air farce -Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

[H]ere we are, just a few days later, and one of New York's three premiere airports is shut down because a man walked straight through a "secure" exit without being stopped. Nice to know we're being protected by the Keystone Kops.

They can install the most sophisticated machinery. They can X-ray our boxers, they can check for explosives in every bodily orifice, but we're still not going to be safe; it's not only people's bodies but their backgrounds, their nationalities, and especially their eyes.

Israel has the most secure airport in the world. Because they would have asked him some simple, direct questions with the purpose of studying his reactions. You're from Nigeria. You're going to the US. Why? How long are you staying? What is your purpose? And where is your return ticket? All along they would be scrutinizing not his bodily bulges but his twitches. What Israel excels at is not even ethnic profiling so much as psychological profiling.

I realize that Israel is a tiny country and has to secure only one major airport. But then again, unlike the US, it lives surrounded by terrorists yet has an exemplary record in protecting air travel.
[Jerusalem Post]

Osama bin Laden's Christmas present: almost delivered

Al-Qaeda Terror Attack on U.S. Plane Foiled -Peter Slevin

A Nigerian man, claiming to be linked to al-Qaeda, tried to set off an incendiary device aboard a trans-Atlantic airplane on Christmas Day as it descended toward Detroit's airport.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [pictured above] was accused of trying to bring down the passenger jet with a homemade explosive device.

Jasper Schuringa, an Amsterdam resident, restrained Abdulmutallab as others used blankets and fire extinguishers to douse the flames. Witnesses told the FBI that Abdulmutallab, 23, spent about 20 minutes in the bathroom before returning to his seat and pulling a blanket over his head. Then came a loud and sudden popping sound, followed by smoke and fire.
(Washington Post)

Father Alerted U.S. about Nigerian Plane Bomb Suspect

Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, the father of the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a transatlantic jet on Christmas Day, warned U.S. authorities last month about his son's extreme views, say officials.

High explosives are believed to have been moulded to the bomber's body and sewn into his underpants [pictured at right].

A preliminary FBI analysis has found that the device contained the high explosive PETN, also used in the device worn by British "shoe bomber" Richard Reid in 2001.
(BBC News)

Abdulmutallab: More Bombers on the Way -Brian Ross & Richard Esposito

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab told FBI agents there were more just like him in Yemen who would strike soon.

In a[n audio] tape the leader of al-Qaeda in Yemen boasted: "We are carrying a bomb to hit the enemies of God."

Law enforcement authorities say tragedy was averted only because the bomb's detonator did not work.
(ABC News)

Al-Qaeda Groomed Abdulmutallab in London -Sean O'Neill & Giles Whittell

[T]he Christmas Day airline bomb plot suspect, immersed himself in radical politics while a student in London and was former president of the Islamic Society at University College.

Security sources are concerned that the picture emerging of his undergraduate years suggests that he was recruited by al-Qaeda in London. Security sources said that Islamist radicalization was rife on university campuses, especially in London. He is the fourth president of a London student Islamic society to face terrorist charges in three years.